Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Is Out
|By JULIE PACE; JULIE PACE The Associated Press|
Obama, under mounting pressure to act from fellow Democrats who are worried about political fallout in the fall elections, praised the retired four-star general and said he accepted his resignation with "considerable regret." But the president, too, focused on troubling allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at veterans hospitals around the country.
Obama said the secretary himself acknowledged he had become a distraction as the administration moves to address the VA's troubles, and the president agreed with him.
"We don't have time for distractions," Obama said. "We need to fix the problem."
One of Shinseki's last acts as secretary was to hand the president an internal accounting that underscored just how big the problems have become. It showed that in some cases, VA schedulers have been pressured to fake information for reports to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable.
"It is totally unacceptable," Obama said. "Our vets deserve the best. They've earned it."
The president appointed
"One personnel change cannot be used as an excuse to paper over a systemic problem," said House Speaker
The massive bureaucracy at the VA has come under intense scrutiny over the past month, following allegations that 40 patients died while awaiting care at a
After that scathing report, a cascade of Democrats on the ballot in the fall midterm elections joined dozens of Republicans in calling for Shinseki to step down.
Administration officials said the combined pressure of the VA investigator's troubling findings and the extreme focus on Shinseki's status led Obama to conclude that the secretary would probably need to resign. But they said the president wanted to first allow Shinseki an opportunity to submit his own report to the
In his speech to the
The 71-year-old Shinseki said he had been "too trusting of some" in the VA system. He then headed to the
Obama appeared to take no comfort in ousting Shinseki, a disabled
Shinseki is among the few high-level officials pushed out a job by Obama, who has shown a preference for sticking by advisers during a crisis. He allowed Health and Human Services Secretary
Problems at the VA date back well before Shinseki took the helm. The VA inspector general has issued 18 reports since 2005 that identified deficiencies in scheduling at both the national and local levels.
Congressional lawmakers are working on legislation that would seek to address those problems. Including a bill passed by the Republican-led House that would give the VA greater ability to fire up to 450 senior executives. The Democratic-controlled
In his final remarks as secretary, Shinseki asked
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